- Nine adware apps were uncovered in Google’s Play Store, posing as universal remote controllers.
- The apps are only a drop in the ocean, as report rates on malware and adware apps on the Play Store are getting higher.
- People urged to uninstall them, and look deeper into the reviews next time they are looking for a tool.
According to a report from Lukas Stefanko, a malware researcher at ESET, there’s a new batch of apps on Google Play that was posing as remote control apps but was really just adware. All of the apps were developed by the same studio named “Tools4TV” and were collectively downloaded over 8 million times by people who hoped to get a way to control their TV, air conditioning units, and other home electronic devices.
What is really going against the current trends that want adware and malware applications to be exceptionally polished, these apps were all completely fake, featuring none of the promised functionality. However, due to their type, users could have easily deduced that the missing functionality could very well be ascribed to incompatibility with their devices, keeping the apps installed on their phones for longer so they can try them out with other electronics. This allowed the apps to push ads to the infected devices and make money for its developer.
9 fake apps containing #Adware functionality found on Google Play with over 8 Million installs.
Unwanted code is hidden in "not working" apps that once launched, hide itself from user's view and display ads.
All these apps are fake without any promised functionality. pic.twitter.com/Lc0N2BuUWv
— Lukas Stefanko (@LukasStefanko) January 11, 2019
According to Stefanko, most of the apps were submitted to the Play Store with the adware, while others received an update later on. This is characteristic of the absence of an effective in-depth app reviewing and evaluation from Google’s side, and the reason why the Play Store is now filled with many malware and adware apps that are yet to be discovered. Only a few days back, we reported the presence of 85 malware apps and games that infected 9 million devices, and those reports keep on getting denser despite Google’s promises for a better app screening process. The nine apps from Tools4TV have now been removed, and the developer has been blacklisted, but the situation with the app store, in general, remains adverse.
One thing that is important for users to understand is that user reviews in the Play Store should be taken into account, even before installing an app and figuring out what its functionality is on their own. For example, the most popular of the above adware apps had 57000 reviews, averaging a rating of 3.8, with many of the reviews warning that the app is just adware and nothing more. While fake reviews is always a possibility and a classic method for scammers to try and alter reality, when an app gets enough downloads it is bound to get a large pool of realistic reviews that form a true image of what it is.
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